City Hall security fence approved

City Hall security fence approvedBy BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

City Council gave the Ridgecrest Police Department the go ahead to have new security fencing installed around the northern end of City Hall. In a 4-1 vote, the council approved $247,830 from various state and federal grants as well as impact fees to complete the project.

The project entails roughly 800 feet of chain-link fence with barbed wire that will enclose the rear entrances and parking of City Hall. The fence will also prevent foot traffic from the dirt lots North of the parking lot and will stop vehicle traffic from using the access road off of South Warner Street as a through street.

Police Chief Jed McLaughlin cited security concerns and industry standards as the reason for replacing the much-smaller existing rod-iron enclosure. But some members of council questioned the cost and the necessity of the project.

“I guess I’m not happy with the price,” said Councilmember Wallace Martin, who said he’d rather see the money go to something else. Councilmember Lindsey Stephens, who cast the dissenting vote, agreed that the project seems too expensive.

According to McLaughlin’s report, the project went out to bid in April 2017, and only one contractor, All American Fence Erectors with a bid of $256,840, responded. That bid was rejected. In August 2018, RPD revamped the project and put it out to bid again. The department received one bid for the fencing, All American Fence Erectors ($129,330), and no bids for the electrical work.

When there are no responses to a project out for bid, state law allows for governmental boards to seek out contractors. RPD selected Outback Industries/Gates Are Us for the electrical work ($108,500). Overall, the projected cost is roughly $20,000 less than the original bid.

According to the report, funding for the project comes from federal Justice Assistance grants ($10,566), California Office of Emergency Services grants ($45,110) and city impact fees ($172,154).

“If we don’t use [the grant funding] for this, then we have to give it back,” said Strand. “The fund that we’re using for this is not general-fund money, this is impact money for this specific purpose.”

Some still had concerns about a barbed-wire fence running along the north end of Freedom Park.

“It’s going to dampen the entire family-friendly spirit of Freedom Park,” said Martin. “I don’t mean to put a damper on something you’ve been working on, but I really don’t like it.

“Were people getting in – breaking in or damaging police cars? What is the overriding need to spend this much on this project?”

“We’ve had escapees,” said McLaughlin. “We have had people run out as soon as the [patrol car] door opens, those things happen here.”

He added that in areas as close as Bakersfield, officers have been shot at and attacked while coming and going from law-enforcement facilities.

“I believe we have a duty to protect our employees and our officers and our prisoners,” said Strand. “Doesn’t mean we have to wait until something big happens.”

He said a secure back lot was standard for the industry and people would be hard pressed to find a station in the state that didn’t have a secure parking lot for its vehicles or its jail.

Council approved the item with assurances that decorative trees and bushes would be preserved or relocated.

Pictured: Chief Jed McLaughlin — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2018-11-16